Police arrest 45 in protest against BART

Protesters march downtown to demonstrate against BART
August 23, 2011 8:08:07 AM PDT
Demonstrators managed to disrupt BART service for several hours Monday evening. Roving protestors forced BART to close both the Civic Center and Powell Street stations off and on -- four times at Powell, three times at Civic Center. Each time, protestors marched up and down Market Street, BART would close those stations.

This week's protest began the same way last week's protest did at the same time and location. However, this one ended with a lot more people being arrested.

Commuters rushed to BART stations to get out of San Francisco before the planned 5 p.m. protest.

"We posted word that it was going to happen at 5 so I left. I got a job where I can leave early so that's what everybody did," said BART rider Randy Riggins.

As promised, protesters began their demonstration at 5 on the Civic Center platform. Protesters continue to be upset with BART for cutting off its underground cellphone service Aug. 11th in an effort to prevent an anti-police demonstration from happening.

This time, though, BART police took a more aggressive stance. Officers warned, then arrested anyone who began displaying signs and chanting. BART has repeatedly said, protesting is fine, just not beyond the fare gates. Protesters were still upset.

"Well, I have bought my BART ticket as you can see right here. And I do intend on taking the BART home which means I have the right to assemble here," said BART rider Mike Rechnitz.

By 5:30 p.m., officers ordered everyone to leave the Civic Center station. Protesters, though, continued with their demonstration outside onto Market Street. They marched back and forth several times which forced BART to close the Civic Center and Powell Street stations off and on to prevent the protest from moving back underground.

Commuters who weren't lucky enough to get out of the city early were frustrated.

"I appreciate what they're trying to do but it doesn't help me get home. I've been at work for 14 hours so I'd like to get home," said one BART rider.

The demonstration finally ended at Larkin and Grove Streets near the library. Officers had the protesters cornered, and one by one, they made an arrest. But the people who took part remain defiant.

One protester, who did not want to be identified, said, "This is something we need to be able to protest, like these people need to unite against this."

In all, there were 45 arrests. BART police arrested five people and the San Francisco Police Department arrested 40. It's a big change from last week when police made no arrests.

The protest was organized by international hacking group called "Anonymous". Last week, in retaliation to BART cutting off cellphone service, Anonymous defaced BART's website and planned more protests, including the one for this week.

"When BART cut off wireless communication at those three stations -- that was a dumb move. It just adds fuel to the fire," said public relations consultant Peter Sealey of the Sausalito Group. He said BART's CEO and police chief should have been conducting damage control, early on. "The senior person at a company has to get in front of the story and take responsibility. BART hasn't done that."

BART said at the time, pulling the plug prevented protesters from communicating and kept train service running.


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